The universe formed from a single point infinitely smaller than the size of an atom.

How did the Universe come into existence? Any thoughts? This isn’t a simple question to answer straight away. Over the course of history, people in several ways have tried to explain this using both myth and theory. But in modern times, science has been the most dominant approach in trying to explain the existence of the universe. Though some of you might disagree with this theory, but, by far, it has been the most influential theory of science seeking to establish that the entire universe started off with a bang. Oh! The Big One.

Bang Bang: It’s The Universe Knocking

The universe was believed to have been eternal, that is, has always existed, and would always exist. As to how the universe came into existence, was one big question in astronomy. Back in the 1910s, an astronomer by name Vesto Slipher, (and that’s the coolest name for an astronomer ever), was observing spectra of the spiral nebulae, where he witnessed a mystery. In 1917, he had observed that the nebula were redshifted, and couldn’t figure out why.

In the 1920s, Georges Lemaître, the Belgian priest and astrophysicist, was studying Albert Einstein’s equations that predicted that the universe was infinite, and had always existed. Lemaître came to the conclusion that the universe itself was expanding. Huh? Yes. If this is the case, then it would explain the redshifts that Slipher observed a decade earlier. The astronomer Alexander Friedemann had also come to such a conclusion, that the universe itself was expanding. This hypothesis was a big question, and finding evidence to prove it had to take time.

Two radio astronomers in the 1960s made a great discovery — if not the greatest discovery of science — a great discovery of science. They detected for the first time a microwave signal that seems to point from all directions they positioned their radio antenna. They even suspected the pigeons around their antenna. The signal they were picking up was the Cosmic Background Radiation that was left by the early universe. This was what Slipher observed in the redshifts, and what Lemaître concluded as the universe was expanding. 

In The Beginning, There Was Nothing, And Then Came Everything.

Right after the Big Bang, in about a fraction of a second — approximately one billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, the early universe was unimaginably hotter than the core of a star. If we call the start of the universe time zero, then, in just that fraction of a second, atomic nuclei couldn’t hold together. At this point, antimatter in the early universe had annihilated itself leaving just one billionth of the matter left after the Big Bang.

That one billionth…? Is everything! Yes, everything in the universe is just one billionth of all the matter and energy created after the Big Bang. Three minutes later, subatomic particles were able to stay together and even formed atoms like deuterium — an isotope of hydrogen. Twenty minutes later, the universe metaphorically cool down enough that atomic fusion started. Elements such as hydrogen and helium fused together for the first time. But this wasn’t easy since the pressure of the early universe was unimaginably hot.

At this point in the universe’s history, the universe was ionized. Atoms couldn’t form straight away until 380 millennia, then atoms finally formed and held together all their particles. On the periodic table, hydrogen is first, followed by helium, then beryllium in that order. Hydrogen was really abundant in the early universe than helium, in a ratio of 3:1 — hydrogen with 75 percent and helium with 25 percent. This is even observed now in stars, since hydrogen has the lion’s share of a star’s total mass than helium.

The early universe was unimaginably hot, but had cooled enough for atomic fusion. The matter and energy present at that moment was evenly distributed that not even a single point in the universe was denser than another. As atomic fusion merging elements together, hydrogen atoms fused together to form the very first stars in the universe. Which will also lead to the formation of the first galaxies of the universe. From here, we can safely say that the universe is born.

Life, The Universe, And Everything

Image: ESO’s VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory | This detailed artist’s impression shows the structure of the Milky Way

13.8 billion years ago, the universe came to life. That’s a long ass time for our human minds. Let’s scale it down to about, say 14 years. Then the universe began 14 years ago, around the time Facebook and Twitter were created. The first stars and galaxies form about 12 years ago, roughly the time when Ghana had her golden jubilee. Forward the clock further seven and a half years, then our solar system and earth formed 4.5 years ago. Multicellular organisms formed 3.5 years ago. What we’re saying is, all complex life forms are just a recent development.

On this scale, the dinosaurs went extinct 4 weeks ago, that’s how long the FIFA World Cup takes. Human evolution from Homo Habilis, 3 days ago. Homo sapiens, 50 minutes ago; human beings dispersing around the world, 20 minutes ago; the agricultural revolution, 5 minutes ago; ancient Egypt, 3 minutes ago; the life of Jesus Christ; a minute ago; the Black Death, 24 seconds ago; the industrial revolution, 6 seconds ago; World War I, 2 seconds ago. The Cold War, the Apollo mission to the moon, the internet, Trump’s presidency, you reading this right now, happen within the last second ago.

The first law of thermodynamics states that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed; i.e., everything present today, was present back then at the beginning of the universe. What this means is that, whatever matter and energy that makes up you as you are, has been around for 13.8 billion years and has been changing form over the course of time. We think we big brain apes are so clever enough to have figured that out in a matter of 13.8 billion years later. We’re not so bright, after all. Let us know what you think about the Big Bang.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Thu, Dec 21, 2018.